UC Irvine trailed 35-23 at halftime, then scored the first 14 points of the second half to take a 37-35 lead with 14 minutes, 28 seconds to play at SAP Center in San Jose.
Neither team scored again until the Ducks began a 15-3 run two minutes later on a 3-point basket by Ehab Amin. Louis King followed with a 3-point basket, then later made two free throws to give Oregon a 43-37 lead with 11:14 to play.
Evan Leonard’s 3-point basket with 10:28 remaining gave the 13th-seeded Anteaters their only points in a 6:29 span. The Ducks then scored seven consecutive points on Payton Pritchard’s 3-point basket and layup and Kenny Wooten’s dunk to take a 50-40 lead with 8:19 remaining.
UC Irvine twice pulled to within eight at 50-42 and 55-47, the last time with 5:42 to play. Oregon then went on a 16-2 run that began with 10 consecutive points to lead 71-49 with 1:39 remaining.
“They were the better team tonight,” Anteaters coach Russell Turner said of the 12th-seeded Ducks, who won their 10th consecutive game, holding nine of their opponents to less than 62 points, improving to 25-12.
“They played at an incredible level in a game that coming in tonight I thought we were going to win. So credit to them.
“But credit also to my team, especially these two guys who are up here with me (forward Jonathan Galloway and guard Robert Cartwright, both graduate students.) But also all my seniors, really the whole group, because we did something special this season, and so while we lost, tonight it feels to me in many ways like we’ve also won.”
The loss ended a school-record 17-game winning streak, four games longer than the previous record, set in the 2000-01 season for UC Irvine (31-6). The 31 victories, including the first in the NCAA Division I tournament, were also a school record, three more than the previous record, set during the 2015-16 season.
Cartwright led three Anteaters in double figures with 14 points. Leonard added 11 and junior forward Tommy Rutherford 10.
Pritchard led Oregon with 18, King added 16, Amin 12 and Wooten.
The Ducks will face top-seeded Virginia in a South Region semifinal Thursday at Louisville, Kentucky.
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